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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Boudin?

I love Boudin sausage.  Growing up visiting family in New Orleans I stumbled across it and fell in love at first bite.  For the uninitiated, Boudin is a magical mixture of pork, rice, and Cajun spices stuffed into sausage casings and cooked.  Its texture once you cut in is gooey, goopy, and altogether wrong.  It gooshes out of the casing and is difficult to eat without the help of a big fork or, as I prefer, some crackers.  And it is some of the most amazingly delicious stuff in the world.

I had not thought of or talked about Boudin sausage in about a decade or so.  Then one time my son, Eddie, was in the Pediatric ICU in Austin, Tx and it came back up.  Eddie was in the hospital a lot.  He was born with his intestines on the outside of his body, a condition called gastroschisis, and had severe complications shortly after birth.  Long story short (so to speak), he had short bowel syndrome and a limited time to live.  On this particular occasion, he had contracted RSV and his lungs had stopped breathing for him.  So we were in PICU.  Ed, who was a little over thirteen months old at the time, was in a medically-induced coma having a respirator doing his breathing.  I was camped out in a chair next to his bed and had been for a week or so.  My husband, Phillip, and I passed the time holding the world's longest UNO tournament and entertaining the hospital staff by sampling the variety of music stored on the iPod that I had borrowed from my sister.  We couldn't afford an iPod.  Phillip worked at Home Depot and I took care of Eddie.  We were desperately and uncomfortably poor but we were also really happy.  We had each other, we had God and we had Eddie.  That was enough, even in a hospital.

Anyway, on this particular day, I happened to have a nurse from Southern Louisiana and we started talking food.  I love food and Cajun food ranks up there among my favorites.  Real Cajun food that is.  The stuff that is offered at local chains is to Cajun food what Chili's is to Mexican food.  She was of the same opinion and we began waxing poetic about crawfish from Gonzales, soft shell crab in season, and Boudin.  She told me one of the respiratory therapists was also from the New Orleans area.  When that particular RT came in to check on Eddie, the three of us had a rap session that would have done Justin Wilson proud.  The RT, a woman whose name I can't remember for the life of me, had a mohawk, a line-backer-like physique, and a smile that radiated warmth and comfort.  She was hilarious, upbeat, and loved Boudin sausage so much that she had a case imported from her home region of Louisiana to her doorstep every month.  It was a good day, a much-needed bright spot in a dark situation.

I slept in my chair again that night, waking often to kiss Eddie on the forehead, sing him a song, or mindlessly watch his vital signs monitor and pray.  At this leg of our journey sleep-deprivation had become second nature, but it nonetheless takes it toll on you.  The next morning I washed my face and brushed my hair, but I am afraid I looked as tired as I felt.  It was around six in the morning when a nurse came in, smiling and holding a small Styrofoam plate.  On it was the most beautiful sight I could imagine.  A plastic fork, a package of Saltines, and a long, pale brown link of Boudin sausage.  She told me the RT had dropped it off for me that morning and they heated it in their microwave at the nurses' station.

Kindness takes all kinds of forms.  People often think to make a radical difference in people's lives they need to start a charity or at least give large sums of money to one.  It really is the simple things, though.  That was the best Boudin I had ever eaten.  It tasted like hope.

I don't think I'm going to change the world.  I don't imagine I'll ever publish a novel or speak on television.  I have a little something to offer, though, when it comes to life.  It's goopy and messy and I often have no clue  how I'm supposed to eat it.  I've learned, though, to just grab a cracker and dive in.  So here are my random thoughts on life...a little boudin for breakfast and I hope you enjoy it.